24 Hour Comic: Mixed Up Media

Occupied: Mixed Up Media was my fourth 24 hour comic, following Gran, Absence and Don’t Get Lost. Created in Farset Labs in 2014 it served as a rough draft for Occupied chapters 11-12:

Optimising this for the web I followed the style Stephen Downey used at absencecomic.com. The images were merged in blocks of six with the easy free filesmerge.com making sure to keep altering the merge order as the display changed it in order of load. WordPress typically shaved 82% off image size but Freshtechtips provided a no-plug in solution: through settings to Media Settings and saving all image sizes to zero. The blocks of six were then re-saved to a 640 horizontal (maintaining aspect ratio) for efficient rendering, and re-merged.

This post was made possible by my supporters on Patreon before the three-month hiatus. The final version of prose novel Occupied is available to buy from Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle formats. Libraries and retailers, contact me about cheaper than Amazon stock. You can read more about the novel on this page on this website.

Quick plug for The Drew and Look Podcast: latest episodes on Hardwicke House and Press Gang are up at https://anchor.fm/andyluke

Introduction to Spide: The Lost Tribes

I’ve been a bit rubbish at promoting The Lost Tribes since publishing it at the tail end of 2018. In hindsight, it was a bad choice for a second novel. It has none of the hooks of altruism or education which have garnered me good reception. Indeed, it’s a nasty book with no redeeming characters, and the central epic of the Ulster Cycle is purposely anti-academic, told through an unreliable berate-r narrator.

(For an actual sourced rendition of these legends, buy up Patrick Brown’s Cattle Raid of Cooley graphic novel.)

‘Spide’ is a slang term in popular usage in Northern Ireland referring to feckless male troublemakers, junkies and layabouts. Another variant is ‘steek’. In England the equivalent is ‘chav’, so I’m told. Spide’s roots come from 1970s Ulster paramilitaries, who wore spider tattoos on their necks, before becoming more casually used. (I suspect that word link muted one editor to compromising over a similarly branded but tangential work.)

The short novel is narrated by Dan Spide, who along with his sidekick Ape, is typical of those Irvine Welsh archetypes to be found on any low-rent council estate: swilling cheap lager; sexist; racist; horizons peaking with the next welfare cash or anticipated beating.

‘The Lost Tribes’ is a multi-fold extension, viewing the scoundrels’ own psychological turmoil in the wider culture of local authority figures with batshit insane philosophies. It’s a feature of N. Ireland’s political communications that a small vocal elite polices with literal Bible truths , Westboro Baptist ethics and tacitly endorsing paramilitary acts.

A subset of these subscribe to an Ulster-British concept where they self-identify as direct descendants of Israel’s lost tribe of Dan. Peter Robinson. Nelson McCausland. Edwin Poots. Never mind that the lost tribe of Dan has more biblical links to God’s banished, (necromancy, for one), these lead politicos and their advisors draw their family trees from Jeremiah and Jacob through Conchobar, Nuada and classical Irish myth. Stories where study tells of alteration to improve the fiction. The time displacement reeks.

I wanted to understand and show the perspectives of Dan and Ape and of these crazy rulers of the world. I’ve paired their ‘truths’ with the train route between Northern and Southern Ireland , making for a sort of psycho’s geography. It’s stories within stories, a slow build into an Indiana Jones romp, if Indy was a paranoid xenophobe. I’ve read their literature. The sources make for the most un-credible conspiracy theories.

Spide: The Lost Tribes is available by Amazon and on Kindle at a low, low price (or free with Kindle Unlimited)

Marc Savage is the cover artist for The Lost Tribes and I couldn’t have asked for a better expression of the bonkers blockbuster qualities.
Spide: The Lost Tribes may contain incidences of Northern Irish-isms.
You get the tablet phone thing, you put in the money you would have spent on a haircut, and fazoomio, it’s inyour hand!

Post NanoWrimo Roundup

[Link] Spide: The Lost Tribes has been released today in print through Amazon.

[Link] Four by the week posts on my NanoWrimo experience.

[Link] to interview with Eileen Walsh of Derry Drive 105 were we talk about 24 hour comics, Absence, Spide and NaNoWrimo.

[Link] I’ll be reading brand new poetry at Mixed Jam, on December 10th from 5-7pm. That’s at East Belfast’s 248 East Bistro, which is a lovely venue.


‘Bout! The Fight-Zine’ is a new short comic by John Robbins.  I love how John tells stories. ‘Bout!’ is funny, a bit deranged and prime twisting. It’s free: go and read it via @ComicsWendy this half hour!

Spide: The Lost Tribes is out on Thursday. In case you missed it, capsule review: two Belfast louts get roped into a Free Presbyterian grail quest, sped by the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train and through the pages of history. The narrator, Dan Spide, is sat backwards on the journey, now that I think to tell you. I’ve caught most of everything else in the wee novella. The link to give out is https://tinyurl.com/thelosttribes – why not pre-order it in case Amazon crashes?

Advance feedback’s good and today the first full review is up from Chris McAuley at Talking Comics:

The excellent cover is by @TheMarcSavage who was shooting for the Drew Struzan movie poster scale and succeeded. You can also find Marc at @media_large. I’ll be talking about it to Eileen Walsh on @Drive105 FM in Derry Wednesday morning.

At the weekend I was in Derry for Comics City Fest where a good time was had by alcohol. My comrades for the too-old-to-do-this nights drink were the wildcard Darren McCay, and No-Selfie Will Simpson. Here’s a shot of ‘The Ambassador’ with Lightspeed Stephen Downey.

The Comic City event at the Guildhall was bustling popular. Thanks to Dave Campbell and all the staffers who worked to make it be.

National Novel Writing Month is upon us: extreme prose writing and I’m using it to catch up on an outstanding project. When not smashing up telephones, I’ll be scowling at loud grandparents in cafes up and down the country.

Filling in on Patreon this month: 24 hour comics never seen before. That’s pretty big news actually. Should probably be a headline somewhere. Cough, cough.

(All calls are screened before the telephone ejection policy is decided)

Culture Night / Remembering Terry

Culture Night is almost upon us. It’s the biggest day of the year for Belfast with a hundred thousand descending on… four hundred events? All run by volunteers.

I’ll be doing my in-demand poet thing this year: because I’m a poet, who writes poetry. First off is Inspire’s Time for Tea by Lombard House, 10-20 Lombard Street from 5:30-7pm. It’s a family oriented event. Inspire perform valuable mental health services, and they’re co-hosting with Addiction NI.

Then I’ll make my way through the crowds to the Costa Coffee on Castle Place. From 7-9pm Studio NI/Titania are running a unique Open Mic with performances filmed and some contest or other. Turn up to both and I’ll not pop the same material.

Terry Wiley passed away earlier this month. Terry was an independent cartoonist. He had a style which any-one could look at and say, ‘that’s a Wiley’. He was detailed and graceful and infused his characters with life. In the 90s he co-created Sleaze Castle with Dave McKinnon. A tale of dimension hopping students, it drew influence from psychedelia, Subgenius, and quantum malarkey and Terry brought all of that to the pages in every conceivable magical aspect. Sleaze Castle had, perhaps, a cult following? A small but passionate readership. Terry was similarly magical. He looked part-squirrel, part gnome, and could be so easy-going I found him a bit intimidating on our first meets. Or maybe I was star-struck. Or maybe it was because that first time I had the accidental honour (and I was aware of it) of sitting next to Terry and Dave for a Balti in Birmingham, and I’d never seen candles under food or a balti bowl before.

The 2013 MCR – Jay Eales, Terry Wiley, Lee Kennedy

Huh. There’s too much to write about Terry. He was a regular fixture at the CAPTION festivals, sketching and yarning, and building unusual props. It was the Midwinter Comics Retreats, (MCRs), organised by Debra Boyask, where I got to know him. Recipe: a dozen cartoonists in a country cottage, plied with home-cooked food and booze, tasked with creating a book over a weekend. It was Christmas come early, with a substitute family. (Debra made sure all the men wore ties at dinner)

The MCR comics were high nonsense. Above, Terry describes the plot of the first two. This page introduces the third book, Hellspoon.

Terry was massively prolific, finishing about two to three pages a day. Somehow he also found time for the craic, curmudgeonly rants, and enlightening us with poignant observations. Ha! I’m just remembering the last MCR. We’d picked up that it was also the abbreviation for My Chemical Romance, whose lead singer Gerard Way also writes for DC comics. Our MCR was traditionally happy to be low-key, but Jay and Terry got it into their heads it might be fun to take back the hashtag, and so began uploading pages and jest-trolling MCR fans on Twitter.

The League of Jeremies, by Terry Wiley, from MCR Hellspoon.

There’s a selection of the Retreat Comics for free on the Factor Fiction website, and some other books Terry worked on with them. His last work was Verity Fair, which I’ve heard nowt but great things about.

I visited Terry in the care home a few weeks before he passed. He was more concerned about me than about himself. That was the measure of him. He was well loved throughout the communities. He was brave as could be.

I have a lot of new work up on Patreon. The poems Handle-Guards, K. What? and Green-Way/Decoded. There’s also new short stories, The Youth of 2062 and Riot City, Junk Garage. Very soon these are joined by the first-look at my new novella, Spide: The Lost Tribes. More on that soon.

Take care of yourself and yours. Good night,


Chapter 49

Image Source: Roelli, P. (2005) The Thanka Wall overlooking Tasilhunpo. Retrieved online
June 9, 2018 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tashi_Lhunpo_Monastery


Hamburg, British Zone of Occupation.
Thursday 20 May, 1948.

She is seventy-one: thin, quietly drained; a pale feat of a woman. Her expression is sour. Time has pressed her cheeks inward, clamped her mouth shut. She might have been happy, but that time has passed. They all knew he would meet a bitter destiny. Margarethe pours the pan’s boiling water into the teapot and replaces the cover. Margarethe Lincoln: always faithful to him.

Sun light fades and then bursts through the windows in the kitchen and the lounge. Indifferent, it pushes through the blind onto the brown chairs and carpet. Margarethe’s home is a simple two-up, two-down; her brother-in-law in the guest bedroom. Her youngest, Clifford, stokes the fire. His Uncle Simon’s face is in the paper. Simon is sixty-eight. He resembles his brother with balding thin black hair. The pot is wrapped in an oven glove and set on the table. Margarethe is glad Simon will spend another few days here.

Deep black coal smokes in the lounge. Clifford pours the tea, and they talk about his Uncle Lajos, now Louis. Still living in Cleveland, reading his socialist papers, but too ill to travel. Simon’s step-brother, Julius, at fifty-five is still serving in the army. There is an unspoken agreement between the men to avoid talking about ‘their famous one’.

The Abbot Chaokung was reported to have died in Shanghai on October 6th, 1943. They said it was an intestinal virus. In death there are as many stories of him: that he spent his remaining days with drug dealers and white slavers; that the FBI knew he was operating as a Nazi spy; that he was interred in Shanghai’s Hongkou Ghetto. There were reports that he had been poisoned. That he had written a letter to Hitler full of demands and threats. A friend saw him in hospital, but the next day she found a different man in his bed. In her search for him, she was repeatedly turned away until she learned he was in a private suite and private meant private. There was a funeral but no one saw a body. The German National Observer claimed he died in Vienna. American troops allegedly found his grave but the coffin was empty. Since then he has been sighted at his home-town Paks, in New York, and in Argentina. Simon wanted to write a book about his brother fifteen years ago. The British consulate in New York were cold to him and it put an end to the idea. Ignacz and he quarrelled but Simon thought he could put the hate behind him. Coal crackles and splashes cinders over the hearth which disappear in the mesh fireguard.

When Margarethe returns they are talking about Sandor. He never left the Budapest family home, and so Clifford never met him. The sun glares through the living room blind and subsides again. Margarethe recalls Sandor. They met once or twice. He appeared shy, but likeable. Then she thinks of his fate: taken to Auschwitz, never to return. She is shaking. The good son helps her to her seat. Simon bows his head. The fire provides some heat now and his eyes are watering too. He knows his sister-in-law’s tears are not over Sandor. He is here because news reached them a week ago that John is dead. His mother, who left him on Java, struggles to work past the fault line, and to grieve properly. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, John was interred in Lapas Sukamiskin prison. After years of torture, he moved to Western Australia. He struggled to adapt. His restaurant crashed and John took his own life. opened up a restaurant. Sorrow drips from Margarethe’s chin as she goes for fresh bedding.

Simon listens for her reaching the top of the stairs before picking up his paper. He removes a sheet, stands and pulls out the fireguard. Clifford takes the paper out of his hands. Simon shakes his head but the nephew is already reading. The sun light expands, from the kitchen and the lounge, coalescing in the doorway between them. It is faded, like a spectre of something here long ago. A void: an outward expression of an inward fear. Clifford is reading that his father, Trebitsch Lincoln, has been sighted at a monastery in Darjeeling. The journalist suggests perhaps it is a stop-off on his journey toward Tibet. The off-white light creeps towards the dimpled edges of the tabloid. It is a near humanoid shape, a no-detail silhouette, fluctuating. Trebitsch Lincoln has passed on. He is no longer alive: on this earth, this plane; certainly, not in this room.

Lies! Lies!” the void shouts. “Do not listen to them, son. They will print everything and anything about me if it serves their own devilish ways!”

The rest of the column is the usual potted biography: Canadian preacher; British MP; double agent; military advisor and Buddhist monk.

Don’t bother reading that,” says Simon.

Simon?” says the void, “What is he doing? Here in my home? This is not your family, robber!”

Your father treated me appallingly,” said Simon. “He took money from me. When the FBI were looking for him, they arrested me.”

He compromised my security! Scoundrel! How dare you???” asks the void, throwing it’s hand in the air, holding its head with the other.

But, Clifford, I forgave him long ago,” said Simon.

He takes the news-sheet back. The fireplace gives out a coughing fit sending white coal dust into the ray of light. Simon tears the newspaper into strips while the void stamps: fury without sound.

I was a Christian minister and a Buddhist monk. I am completely sure I practised forgiveness before you knew the meaning of the word!”

He tried his best with you, and your brothers. The notion of him in Tibet,” says Simon, “Well, it is just newspaper lies. You don’t want your mother to see that.” He scrunches the paper into balls.

Tibet, yes! That is the place I will go to now. I will guide it, help it build railways to other realms, and reclaim my status ushering in a future universe of equal rights for all people!!”

In the stomach of the fireplace, the newspaper flickers slowly into flakes of rising ash which fall at the big feet of the void creature.

T o T i b e t!!” it exclaims.

The void disperses into silver grey molecules, floating between sun-ray and dust, and then settling on the carpet.

Four thousand, two hundred and fifty two miles away above the city of Shigatse, monks walk the walls of Tashi Lhunpo. The gilded turrets and canopies are charged by the sun. The delicately painted Thanka wall stands on a hill over the temple, in blue sky. A moment later, there is a black dot in the heavens, a lone aeroplane shaped dot.



Brought to you by patreon.com/andyluke where you can read dozens of commentaries, poems, shorts and comics strips.

Chapter 48

Image Source: Tri Relbachen, one of famous 3 dharma kings of Tibet (Aug 3, 2015) The Off:
About Best Himalayan Adventures. Retrieved online June 1st, 2018 at

Wednesday 5 February, 1941
German Consulate, Shanghai.

Martin Fischer is a family man. A pastor’s son with a Norwegian wife and three children. For thirty years he served as German Consul at Beijing and Mukden. On joining the Nazi Party in ‘37 he’s transferred to Shanghai. Ribbentrop trusts Fischer, but more and more the Wilhelmstrasse Office pushes him to take a hard-line. Fischer is the conduit when the Japanese are asked to restrict immigration; to treat enemy nationals as such; when Nazi reach is to be extended with a local HQ and propaganda bureau. Fischer cannot prevent the influx of party members to consular services. They weaken co-ordination of German political affairs in China. Men like Louis Siefkin, who use diplomatic cover for intelligence gathering.

Siefkin’s Abwehr spy ring brings the embassy a procession of callers. Staff must deal with boat-spotters, librarians, crooks and couriers. There are engineers and announcers for the half dozen radio stations run from the back room. The best, XGRS, supplies China with news-casts, commentaries and sketches in six different languages. XGRS is the pet project of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, so Fischer tows the line. SS and Abwehr operations are required to be kept apart from the Foreign Office. Conversely, protocol requires consul staff must read all incoming and outgoing messages. Siefkin infuriates them by using his own personal code. When the Abwehr in Berlin ask for more details of Siefkin’s meeting with Chaokung, Fischer makes sure to hunt down the original transcript.

A mutual friend, Mr. Erben, suggested I meet you,” said Siefkin. “And Flicksteger at XGRS. He said you had ideas of travelling to Tibet, to bring that country under German influence. What qualifications place you as a person fit for that task?”

Fischer remembered the Abbot in the hall that morning: the physical attributes of a vulture inside a death black cloak; a gliding spectre disappearing behind Siefkin’s door.

For many years,” said Chaokung, “I have been a member of the Grand Council of Lamas who possess special influence in India and Tibet. Captain Siefkin: this is my proposal. Tashilumpo, to the south of Tibet, is the seat of the Panchen Lama. Also an area of anti-British sentiment. It is perfect for transmitting XGRS into India.”

Reading the transcript Fischer didn’t chuckle. On one hand he knew Chaokung was an unreliable charlatan. On the other hand, his pitch hit key aims Siefkin and the Abwehr had long desired.

I think it would work,” said Chaokung. “I foresee myself going there, accompanied by a General Staff officer, an aviation expert, a wireless operator, a courier and the transmitter. We might go via Kabul, or, I am willing to go and meet them in Berlin.”

Siefkin was a broad-shouldered man with a tanned, stout face. Silently, he considered the Abbot’s idea. A workaholic, Siefkin was permanently frustrated, but this had merit.

What do you know of India?” he asked.

A great deal. For example, Sahay the nationalist leader, is in Shanghai this very week. Well, he could be directly influenced! If Germany was to back the movement for independence, why, a great many advisors could be sent to them. They could be directed in military and aviation tactics; trained to use the equipment!!”

What would you get? What is your interest?” asked Siefkin.

The adventure of visiting Tibet. An important role in unfolding matters. Revenge on Britain. Apart from travel and living expenses, I have no financial demands.”

A green-eyed coarse-faced thug looked at the date: four months after Siefkin’s report.

Josef Meisinger was a large, bald, perpetually grinning and ugly man. His callousness was cemented when over two years in Poland’s Kampinos Forest he ordered the mass shootings of 1,700 people. From there he went to Tokyo, acting as Gestapo liason for the embassy, and now he was the new military police attaché at Shanghai embassy. Meisinger intended to round up and kill Soviet spies while in the city. He drank hard and talked often. His brutality threw everyone’s nose out of joint. In his first week, he pressed Japanese commanders to exterminate the German and Austrian Jews living in Shanghai. They expressed their disgust to Fischer. Subsequently, Fischer forgot all about Siefkin.

He dare not challenge Meisinger. The Butcher of Warsaw instilled fear in whomever was around, though Chaokung seemed to be an exception. They met during Meisinger’s second week, arranged again by Siefkin’s man Hermann Erben. Erben had been monitoring the port and interviewing sailors, and assured them he had known the Abbot some time.

Thank you for agreeing to see me, Colonel. I wondered about the lack of response after my previous visits,” said the monk.

Meisinger said, “Simple protocol. Or just protocol run by simpletons.” He cast a glance over at Fischer. “Consul Fischer asked to sit in and observe this meeting. I consented to this request.”

Of course. I am glad to have you here, Consul Fischer.”

Meisinger said, “I have read the file on the ‘Radio Tibet’ proposal. Tell me what you told Siefkin.”

Chaokung rattled off the XGRS proposal as Fischer sat quietly. He did not speak at all in the meeting; did not like working closely with Meisinger. Only the chirpy sound of the Abbot’s voice kept him from being sick; kept him from passing out, for while they talked Fischer’s skin was clammy and eyes watering. Initially he wasn’t aware he was zoning out. Then he jolted out sharply from the black of sleep.

Fischer! Maybe you need to lie down! Show some discipline,” Meisinger said.

He apologised, and Meisinger told Chaokung to continue. Chaokung said he would recommend Fischer a qualified teacher in meditation, and Meisinger laughed.

I understand that spiritualism plays a large part in German life,” continued Chaokung. “That Police Chief Himmler sees the SS as a modern day version of the Teutonic Knights. The SS lightning bolt symbol is derived from runes, the sun, and victory.”

It is in honour to our ancestors, and the purity of our race,” said Meisinger.

Yes, Colonel. These ideas are old, and mystical. Knowledge rooted in the occult, understood by a privileged few.”

Fischer’s ears perked up. Chaokung seemed to be directing Meisinger along an unusual road.

The solstices, winter and summer, for example. The practices around these events form the rough drafts of the new German baptismal and funeral rites. Deputy Hess is a champion of astrology, seers, mediums and the like. I am told the Fuhrer believes in these ancient powers: do you, Colonel?”

If these primal sources wish to decontaminate the earth of Jews, cripples, homosexualists, then yes. Cut the weakness off at its head!”

I am glad your mind is open to this, sir, and here is why. I have been employed by the sages of Tibet to bring a message. The sages commune with a spirit world government. They cannot be seen by the untrained human eye. I was told to tell you that the time is ripe for Germany to make peace.”

There was not a shred of suspicion on Meisinger’s brutal face. The Abbot, Fischer noticed, was also completely convinced of himself.

I have been authorised by my Tibetan Masters to take the necessary steps. To that end, I wish to travel to Berlin as soon as possible for a meeting with the Fuhrer.”

What evidence can you offer? If your claims are correct, how can you persuade Hitler to see you?” asked Meisinger.

There was a certainty the Abbot conjured with his hands, his voice; as if some ethereal force was sparking to life in the room. He gestured to their seating arrangement.

We would sit, like you and I do now. Just the two of us: there are some things that need to be secret; I would reveal to him these divine ways. Hidden knowledge and ritual for recognising these immortal energies.”

He looked deep into Meisinger’s soul, as if Fischer was not in the room, and then gestured to the back wall. “Then… when our world and the spirit worlds align, they will show themselves!”

He swept his arm inward. “Three of the Wise Men of Tibet will appear through the wall. To the Fuhrer they will repeat the message I have conveyed. They will give to him many other essential revelations. This will be the best proof to provide Hitler. Proof of the supernatural power at the disposal of the Supreme Initiates!”

That evening, Rudolf Hess climbed up to his Messerschmitt bomber and took a final look back across Augsburg-Haunnstetten airfield. Back to his Bavarian home where he’d laid his provisions in the case on his bed: maps, goggles, a torch, dextrose tablets and two vials of sacred liquid from the Panchen Lama. One last look before he climbed inside the cockpit and turned the key in the ignition.

The Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was the Nazi leader all other Nazi leaders hated. He fought with Heydrich and Himmler particularly, over matters of foreign intelligence and police attachés.. He’d acquired his position through marrying money, pushing people around and always saying what Hitler wanted to hear. His pale eyes were the bottom of a toadstool forehead, the top a slithering silver hairpiece. At his office in Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse, he paid particular attention to Cable 117: Meisinger’s endorsement of Chaokung as a particularly authoritative Tibetan voice. So important, wrote Meisinger, that Berlin ought to personally invite him there to launch his plan. Fixed to the bottom of the message was Cable 118, marked ‘secret – for the Foreign Office only’. Therein Consul Fischer laid bare the truth of Trebitsch Lincoln: a political adventurer whose Tibetan qualifications were a sham. He wished only to be politically important and even had approached Roosevelt. The ice in Ribbentrop’s eyes melted into red. His forehead wrinkled into jaws with the indignity. He called in Luther, his hatchet man and aide, to compose a reply to Fischer. He would inform Meisinger a precondition of his work at the embassy was to deal only with police work. He was not entitled to report on or deal in Foreign Office matters. When Luther had transcribed the note, Meisinger said he had another job for him.

It was two days later at Police HQ, where Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler was struggling. On top of his usual workload he was compiling data for ‘Aktion Hess’, the planned arrest of hundreds of astrologers, faith healers and occultists. Many of Himmler’s own friends would be on the list. He and Hess had recommended them to Hitler already.

Himmler gave the dossier a rest and dealt with the newly arrived telegram from the Foreign Office. Ribbentrop had forwarded a copy of Meisinger’s Cable 117. As he read it a drop of sweat trickled down Himmler’s chin and pounced on the page. The evidence of Meisinger’s indiscretion was akin to a mob warning: another of Ribbentrop’s power plays happening. There was a knock at the door. Himmler jumped but it was Heydrich, his trusted Chief of Security. Yet Heydrich was pale. He had a letter, sent a letter by Luther. Himmler took it from him and read it over. Luther was also loyal to Himmler, so he hoped for the best, expected the blow to be cushioned. It was not.

By explicit instruction of the Foreign Minister, Heydrich had been advised Lincoln was by birth a Hungarian Jew with insignificant credentials. Meisinger was to be firmly instructed by his his superiors in the Reich criminal Police not to step beyond the boundaries of his job. The Foreign Office outlined that the same applied to the rest of the Abwehr and SS. Politically, Heydrich and Himmler had just both been given a serious bollocking.

A few mornings later, Consul Fischer entered the embassy to the sound of Meisinger swearing. His journey to his office took him closer to the source: The Butcher shoving Louis Siefkin against the wall, twice: arschloch! Flick dich! Bloder dummer Fickkopf! Meisinger smacked Siefkin about the head with a sheet of paper and Fischer whistled as he passed.

By the end of the day, Meisinger’s response to Ribbentrop went through the prescribed service channel, namely Fischer’s office. The language was all defensive: he had only met with ‘T’ in relation to a complaint; the declarations were made on T’s own initiative; he told ‘T’ he had no authority but would relay the proposal to Berlin. Fischer remembered Meisinger grabbing Siefkin’s head in his hand, and decided he would guard his own flank. He wrote another classified shadow telegram for Ribbentrop under Meisinger’s. It coolly stating he’d not interviewed ‘T’ himself. However, Fischer was aware the Hungarian had been invited to the embassy in February by members of the Abwehr.

Outside he could hear Meisinger screaming at Siefkin again. This was over the afternoon’s mail from Heydrich to Meisinger, which Fischer also had the pleasure of seeing. Police Chief Heydrich threatened disciplinary action: surely Meisinger realised the man was a Jew! As Siefkin’s head banged off the wall, Fischer used the noise as cover for a good laugh.

A little over a year later, the Trebitsch incident cost both Louis Siefkin and Hermann Erben their jobs. Japanese command refused to build Meisinger’s concentration camp. Instead, he continued to ferret out Soviet spies in Shanghai, and spoke of the job to his drinking buddy Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy.


Drawn from over two hundred sources, including Bernard Wasserstein’s Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln. Brought to you by patreon.com/andyluke where you can read the full commentaries.

Chapter 47

Image Source: Map of China, from the CIA Factbook. Public domain. Retrieved online at

The Bund, Shanghai.
Saturday 18 January, 1936.

Under the tower clock and telephone wires Jacintha watched the ships come and go. Sweat trickled on her neck. Maurice borrowed a trolley from the Cathay to move the boxes. Jiahao, who had not left with Willem and Adeline, pushed it along the Bund. Left onto Nanking Road, left again: away from the Bird Market and Great World amusement centre. He swerved the cart from criss-crossing trams and rampaging rickshaws. They waited for the bus outside Park Hotel. All human life was in this city. Indian policemen watched mah-jong players for ivory gambling. Vietnamese in straw pointed hats spoke with French dealers of silk and cotton. An Italian merchant sat high behind household goods, his radio blaring Rudolf Hess’s speech. There were so many stations to choose from and the city seemed to sound them all. In minutes, the Thomas Cook motor bus arrived and they heaved the trolley on board. The ride quickly passed Jing’An Temple. It went far out to Avenue Joffre and further, through the Badlands. The driver stopped for them on Yu Yuen Road: hamburger and corn beef smells from the Hungaria. The restaurant’s aged proprietor, Stella Szirmay, stood at the entrance in a low cut top, greeting ugly Dr. Miorini and his spouse, Ruby Edwards. Jacintha led the monks on into the Book Mart next door. It was a shop full of new age literature and nazi tracts. The ‘Countess’ thumbed the League of Truth books and prepared their receipt. While Jacintha waited, she made the decision to return home to Singapore.

Chaokung glanced to the upper floors of the Glen Line Building: the German embassy. Only twice since Lincoln M.P.’s appendix was removed did the pain hit: on learning of Stephani’s assassination plot, and when incarcerated in Vienna. Quickly, he looked back to the twenty-five miles of wharf. Back to smoke-stacks of bobbing steamers on the Whangpoo’s brown-blue water. The pain subsided, was soon forgotten as he and Margot walked the harbour. Each day he took a different acolyte and they’d look over the boats for sale. It was six months since Hertha’s suicide. His plan was to take them for a leisurely getaway to Madeira Island, south-west of Portugal. He’d read of breathtaking sea cliffs and tiny villages by mouths of ravines. The Mediterranean climate would be good for their health. A hundred foot floating monastery, would manifest his dreams so perfectly: at least until they reached Tibet. He could see it all, beyond the Yellow Sea. All the opportunity. In South Africa, the largest diamonds. Mexico’s revolutionary new President. America’s tribes self-governing their reservations. The sellers were interested in his idea: he’d already found a captain for ‘The Ark’. Margot was silent during each conversation about credit lines and financial backers. They wanted several hundred dollars in advance; money she knew they didn’t have.

He turned his back on the harbour that let the world pollute China. A world of Donald Duck and Monopoly; of Shirley Temple On The Good Ship Lollipop. Bauer’s legacy was a Germany re-arming, growling at it’s own tail. Himmler and Heydrich’s SS murdered their own: Kapp Putschist Gustav von Kahr; White Internationalist Ernst Rohm. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, and infuriated MacDonald and Laval. Bonnie and Clyde were dead, Elgar too. There was nothing out there anyway, thought Chaokung.

They took the train along the coast seven hundred miles northeast, to Tientsin. The League of Truth worshipped at Dabei Temple on Tianwei Road. Like Shanghai there were European settlements and an Anglo-American concession. In the Japanese area they found Shoukei Chogen, a calligrapher who brought new funds but was antagonistic with Jiahao. Chogen regarded the Chinese as a sub-species. At sunrise, they gathered around the Future Buddha in Dabei’s Grand Hall, the statues of the Four Heavenly Kings on each side. They prayed by ancient statues of bronze, iron, wood and stone. In the afternoons Chao led them on walks through the Jewish Cemetery, or to the hilltops for mountain views; teasers for Tibet. Or they sat at the benches on the waterfront and watched the ships. In the evenings they returned to the Buddhist House on the corner of Poppe Road and Romanoff Avenue. They were watched by British agents who scrutinised Chaokung’s meetings with Soviets, and reported back to Whitehall. Meanwhile, Chaokung wrote a new book, ‘Dawn or Doom of Humanity’. Over two hundred and fifty pages he expounded the principles of good government, free press, education, national defence and foreign politics. In each case man had a choice to make: embrace the ultimate potential of humankind; or sink into a deep, degrading abyss which threatened all life on Earth. He appealed to readers to cast off false labels of nationality. Yet he failed to intervene in the bullying of Jiahao. Failed to tell Chogen to recognise their shared humanity.

Mid-May 1937, and the dark prophecies of ‘Dawn or Doom’ appear in bookstores. Early June, the Second Sino-Japanese War begins. At the end of the month, the Japanese navy takes out Tientsin’s forts and aircraft. The city falls quickly to three thousand soldiers, though the foreign concessions are left alone. In August, the occupying forces travel seventy miles to suppress Chinese militia, leaving a skeleton staff of a hundred. From the cornfields, rebels machine gun the barracks. Their bodies are burned by four Japanese bomber planes, first of the vicious reinforcements. Chaokung keeps his monks indoors. Jiahao, ready to abscond, finds he is penned in. Reports have come from Shanghai: unbelievable stories of thousands massacred in city-wide bombardment. He’s sceptical, until he sees the photo. The lone baby crying in the smoking debris of Shanghai Station, ‘Bloody Saturday’, is printed in papers around the world. Weeks later a typhoon, among the worst in Hong Kong’s history, claims eleven thousand lives.

William, the First Baron Tyrrell, signs the visitors book. His Foreign Office replacement, Vansittart, meets him in the hall. Socialising usually takes place at the club, but Vansittart is up to his eyes in it. Tyrrell, now seventy-one, is confident he isn’t going to be put to work. Behind the door they hear loud cursing. The impossible man! Cause of all migraines! Vansittart opens up quickly and dresses down his civil servant. Andrew Scott apologises, but Trebitsch Lincoln; again! Tyrrell empathises; chuckles; feels an anger of three decades here. After Whitehall, Tyrrell went to Paris as their Ambassador, and found Trebitsch staring out at him from a Buddhist lecture poster. No sooner had he returned to Britain than Trebitsch arrived at Liverpool docks. He’d assumed, three years later, he was free of the annoyance.

You’re William Tyrrell aren’t you?” asked Andrew. “Look at this. Jan 7th, 1934: Telegram to George V. ‘Wholly wanton imprisonment in provocative insult challenge to China!’ What?? 28th June, Alexander Cadogan in Peking: ‘Please, I hope the British Empire and I will reconcile.’ Miles Lampson in Shanghai the following year: more nonsense!”

I hardly see what I can do about any of it,” quipped Tyrrell.

This Summer: to the P.M. ‘I am a victim of a diabolical vendetta waged by your government’s machinations. I demand honourable amends for all the wrongs perpetrated against me.’”

Mr. Scott, that is enough,” said Vansittart. “Baron Tyrrell doesn’t want to hear any of this!”

From Scott’s desk, Tyrrell picked up, ‘Anti-Japanese Propaganda’, a new pamphlet from The League of Truth. “I quite understand Mr. Scott’s exasperation… Listen to this. ‘As a resident of Tientsin I declare: I have never seen a better behaved Army of Occupation than the Japanese. They molest nobody, interfere with no lawful occupation…’” Tyrrell dropped the pamphlet back onto the desk.

Japanese propaganda, more like,” said Vansittart. “Let’s get out of here, William. I’ll buy lunch.”

They were gone, without Andrew Scott gleaning any advice from Tyrrell. He read on: of Chaokung’s description of the New Japanese Empire: just, tolerant, and peaceful. Then, he recorded his last minute on the last page of the Trebitsch Lincoln file.

I think the only comment I can make on this is !!!’

Weeks after the fall of Shanghai, reports came from the West the Panchen Lama had died. The leader of Tibetan Buddhism had gone. The same day the aggressors set out for Nanking on killing competitions, transmitting plagues of death-by-rape, two to three hundred thousand people murdered in six weeks. A month later the heartless Japanese warriors bombed Chongqing, turning the brown Yangtze red. From America, Roosevelt excuses Hirohito over Americans killed in Shanghai. Chamberlain appeases Hitler over Czechoslovakia. Global forces converge in Spain as Franco leads massacres in Guernica and Brunete. In Hungary, Regent Miklós Horthy tries to distance his government from pro-German co-operation, set up by his late Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös. Joachim von Ribbentrop and Martin Luther of the German Foreign Office notify Horthy they are not happy about this. At the end of May 1938, Gömbös’s successor passes The First Jewish Law: millions of Jews are restricted from marriage and employment. Sandor Trebitsch has every reason to be worried when a few weeks later a skinhead in black cloak shows up at his door. She introduces herself as Tao Lo, Margot Markuse, a disciple of Chaokung. Sandor has no idea who she’s talking about. When he reads her letter of introduction he’s less pleased. Krausz comes around that evening and Sandor warms to her. They subject her to such quizzing, allowing her to stay seems only polite.

The following day she walks to the Royal Palace, and again twice that week. Unable to get a meeting she leaves a signed copy of ‘Dawn or Doom’, dedicated to Regent Horthy, and a note from Tientsin.

Tortured by nostalgia, broken of body and soul, a tired wanderer on this earth returns to his native soil. The path of glory and success is paved but with sorrow and grief until one rests at the place of his birth.’

Local and international papers want to learn Margot’s story and she impresses many readers with her intelligence. Still, the weeks pass without word from the Royal Court. Sandor tires of her love for Chaokung and tells her all about Ignacz Trebitsch. Finally, Regent Horthy sends a man to fetch her. At that moment, she’s on a train pulling out of Budapest-Keleti. Margot Markuse does not return to China.

The Tientsin escalation drives Chaokung, Maurice and Chogun back to Shanghai, port of last resort. Labourers fill craters were once stood the Palace Hotel; the Wing On department store; the Great World amusement centre. Sassoon House is boarded up and the Cathay Hotel lobby is only boards. A bomb had frozen the hands on her clock tower at 4:27. The rising violence does not spare the respectable Cathay. One day, they see a gun battle break out in front, spitting balls of blood. In the past year, say members of the Buddhist Benevolent Society, they picked eighteen thousand cadavers from the streets. Chinese gangsters still move the opium, but a nastier Japanese strain that boils into blood. On Chaokung’s sixtieth birthday, everywhere he walks he sees beggars with festering sores and eye infections. The monks are anomalies: fixed stoic features in a stream of diverse identities; almost. Chaokung claims to be the tenth Panchen Lama; to another, the reincarnated (fourteenth) Dalai Lama; to another, the Lama Dorji Den.

Shanghai feels the coming war and defies it, taking in boat-loads of Jews Canada and Cuba will not. Japanese barricades are around each foreign concession; checkpoints everywhere. The Germans, once slow to Nazism, are pushed to become fully fledged party members. Consul Martin Fischer strongly resents Goebbels’ new posting, Louis Siefkin. From the consulate, Siefkin transmits the speeches of Hitler and Hess to six Shanghai public radio frequencies. Above the houses of the International Settlement, national flags rise like some great pissing contest. Chaokung has Maurice deliver a press release: a universal appeal for world peace. A few days later the Abbot’s bowels are a disaster zone. Through the night he burns on the toilet in excremeditation. In the morning he learns the Third Reich have invaded Poland. After sleep his pain has gone, but the problem has not. Shanghai sees little evidence of the war in the months coming up to Christmas. The New York Times publish his second appeal: all governments of warring European countries must resign at once. On New Year’s Day Franklin D. Roosevelt pleads for world peace. The Abbot tells the United Press he is going to America to meet with him. He says goodbye to Chogen, to Maurice; to Baron Collenberg and Walter Fuchs; to Baroness Soucanton and Lo Chia-Ling. He says goodbye to Dr. Miorini and Two-Gun Cohen; Mickey Hahn and Stella Szirmay. He says goodbye to Shanghai, whose light is dying. The press gather around as he tells them he has been denied a visa, and that the American bureaucrats are stupid, stupid people, but they are tired. Tired of his old rants of turncoats and treachery. Tired with Trebitsch Lincoln, whose international vaudeville act has had its day.


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Chapter 46

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Kobe Police Station, Japan.
Sunday 13 May, 1934

Beyond Hyogo Port, a weary-eyed keisatsu officer sits at a table in a bare lit cell. Matsumoto, a senior in his department, transcribes with the energy of youth. Without looking up to the Frenchman, he asks another question.

What did you do then, Mr. Chauve?”

Went straight to my wife, of course.”


Most of them were still in prayer. Eyes down.”

Henri stormed decisively into the boat’s lounge.

Marie? Come,” said Henri.

What is it?”

We’re going.”

Are you sure?”

Absolutely. Get your bags.”

What’s going on?” asked Escoffier.

I caught – that man…”

Escoffier, Jiahao, Willem Jansen: they all knew there was trouble.”

He is no Abbot. Let’s go,” said Henri.

Oh God, not again,” said Escoffier.

Juliet?” asked Marie.

Martin Steinke had very good reasons for leaving,” said Escoffier.

What?” asked Willem.

If any of you are serious about this you’ll leave him when we get off at Kobe,” I told them.

That’s when HE arrived.”

Everyone, return to prayer. Mr. Chauve, come with me,” said Chaokung.

I think not.”

Oh you will. You see that was not a request.”

You ought to be ashamed of yourself. We are going.”

Mister Chauve!”

Jiahao, I will handle this!” said Chaokung.

I caught this impostor and HER – she can’t even look at me.”

Henri, don’t,” said Marie. “She’s been through enough.”

Escoffier said, “Well, that settles it!”

Even Adeline was ruffled,” Henri told the keisatsu. “’Alright, Alright,’” I said, “but taking advantage of that young nun like he did!”

Matsumoto gestured Chaokung to sit. He opened the folder and stroked his goatee.

Madame Escoffier told me one or two interesting things, Abbot. There was an argument…”

No. Escoffier and the Chauve couple attempted a mutiny. I sent them to their cabins.”

Tell me about the argument.”

It is not important.”

Very well. If you wish to hide the facts.”

I have nothing to hide, Corporal.”

It’s Sergeant.”

I did not think you were interested in the role and function of a Bodhisattva. Nor how an Abbot ensures his novices observe their Mahayana vows in silence. That look! That look! It is the look I gave them. Well, Mr. Chauve, I told him. ‘You will spend the next two hours alone, deliberating on this bad example.’”

No. You shall,” said Henri. “I am in charge now! You are to fast for the rest of the week.”

Henri, you sound like a fanatic,” said Adeline.

Why did Steinke leave then?” said Escoffier.

Steinke was ego-obsessed,” said Margot.

Silence is for cowards,” said Escoffier. “I’ll talk as much as I like. Be gone Trebitsch Lincoln!”

What is this? Where is the practice of love and fellowship which I taught you?” I asked them. “Outside the sun is shining in the sky…”

Willem, Jiahao. Wouldn’t you both like to go out on deck for a cigarette?” asked Marie.

This is such wicked folly,” said Margot.

I regret it has come to this. I have to ask the three of you to leave.”

Thank you, Abbot,” said Willem.

Hertha said, “This is good. I am happy where I am.”

Then we will take back what we brought with us. The money and the blankets!” said Henri.

I laughed. “You know these are long gone.”

You owe us!”

I am not a banker,” I told them. “I cannot keep track of all business in the last year.”

Henri, don’t be silly. He barely has our travel costs,” said Adeline.

Liar! You’re all liars!” said Marie.

Escoffier said, “He is full of” unmentionable curses.

Give the money to me or I will punch you out cold and bloody,” Henri said.

Sergeant Matsumoto. I did my best to cool their tempers before persuading them to go. I had excommunicated them. I cannot be held responsible for slanderous remarks made to you after the fact. They are illiterate, and lazy, and I am glad to be rid of them.”

They spent the next year in Shanghai. Chaokung lodged at Astor Hotel on Soochow Creek, and the Burlington, both near the Buddhist House. The Astor was ideal until he found his room backed onto a brothel on Taydong Road. It was run by Eugene Pick, a friend of the British envoy, Miles Lampson. From there took his people to the neighbouring province of Chekiang.

It was said the goddess Nuwa cut the legs off a giant sea turtle to prop up the sky; that Tiantai Mountain was on the creature’s back when she moved it. The whole area was filled with imposing rock obelisks and explosions of greenery between the temples. The largest of these was Guoqing, favoured by diplomats. There was also Ji Gong, named after the mad monk, and Tiantai Shan, which devoted itself to the harmonisation of teachings. Contact between them was rare however. Tiantai was often drenched by plum rains, sleet or the edges of typhoons.

Chaokung’s pilgrims were joined by Jacintha Megat, thirty-five, of Singapore-Malaysian heritage. Jacintha valued courtesy and coolness. This was not her first Buddhist colony. Chaokung hoped she might bring her own contacts to study under him. Willem’s insolence necessitated a demotion, and he’d also considered suspending Hertha. He could do neither. Their chief tasks were the release of two magazines, ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Aurora’, and a book, ‘The Human Tragedy.’ It was released to a small audience. A copy was sent to York with the inscription, ‘To B. Seebohm Rowntree, with grateful memories’. Chaokung published these under the name, ‘The League of Truth’. The League stood, ‘For TRUTH, JUSTICE, KINDNESS. Against LIES, INJUSTICE, HATRED; EVERYWHERE, AND IN EVERYTHING.’ An inverted swastika appeared over two hemispheres on his business cards, and on all the League’s publications.

From April to mid-July the monks set their minds to the extensive instruction in the Lotus Sutra. By rote, they copied out the Threefold Truth of the emptiness of self-nature, existing provisionally with worldliness, and both at once. The Three Contemplations gave life, breath, and punishment, in a gruelling learning routine. The church hall, the cells, food and clothes were scrubbed in ongoing battle with Tiantai’s high humidity. Adeline, whose eyesight was failing, worked her way through the Fourfold Teachings; and the Eight Teachings of Four Doctrines of different levels; and Four Methods, for different audiences, and she felt her wrist might literally snap off. The tips of her index finger and thumb were depressed on cracking skin, and the mid-way indent was blister red. She could not hold the pain inside her. Chaokung, working on his next book, did not need to listen to her whines.

Willem was not told what Adeline had done, but he knew strict discipline under Chaokung too well. As a train engineer in Amsterdam, and later in Mukden (before the bombing), he’d seen closely a workaholic boss’s routine, and the fall-out on the minds and bodies of labourers. Young Hertha in particular was deteriorating. She went from moments of great excitation to muffled sobbing in her cell. She was mostly bone. He’d spoken to the Abbot about her diet but the time was taken up convincing him it wasn’t a personal attack. Hertha said he worried about nothing: she’d be fine; everything was rosy; she was safe from any gluttony!

When the July sun was in the sky there were scenic views of the China Sea, Phoenix Mountain and West Lake. The Qiantang River dipped over pebbles and ran currents deep out to Hangzhou Bay. Hertha worked her way through the twenty-seven chapters of the Lotus Sutra. Understanding the immortal aspects of the Buddha; the three-as-part-of-one nature of the Great Vehicle,; these things were necessary in the age of Dharma decline. They read and wrote in silence for nearly five hours. At that point, the high pollen count caught up with Hertha and she shattered the air with a sneeze.

She didn’t go without protest. The Abbot used people, she said. He was domineering and cruel. A hypocrite, and she spat at his feet. With these words the outside bolt was slid across her cell door. She was denied supper, and cried as night fell in storm winds.

She was still crying the following evening when the rain took over the sunset. Jiahao heard the tears on his way to Adeline’s door. He struggled against the gales which kept the old woman inside. Her head was bulbous, and the clothes hung off her: she could barely stand.

His Holiness says you have earned redemption by showing the proper conduct,” said Jiahao.

Help me up then. Good lad. We are going to the dining hall,” said Adeline.


It wasn’t a question. This weather is horrible. And the sound of it!”

Yes. Watch your step. I have you.”

My God. That’s not the wind. Is that…?”

The Master put Tao Ta in solitary yesterday.”

Hertha? Oh my… she hasn’t been looking well… Oh, it’s stopped.”

I think the wind has changed direction. Here we are, Miss Hill.”

Thank you… the poor girl. Mr. Tang, would you look in on her?”

The Venerable One has forbidden her visitors.”

Just look in on her. I will tell the Abbot you are securing one of the doors.”

Wet pelts in gusts threw cold at the Chinaman’s head. It rattled the bar on Hertha’s cell door. There was a high window at the side. He knew he would see nothing through it. Jiahao saw a rope. He slid through the mud and caught the handle. The winds let out a glimpse of legs. He got inside, wrapped arms tight round her, pushed up. The door slammed in the darkness. He tried to lift her onto his shoulders. The door flung wide open to moonlight and her head nodded down at him from the noose. Somebody get here, somebody help; he repeated it over and over as he wrestled. In minutes, Willem was beside him, lifting her up, but she was already cold.

Willem sent Maurice to fetch the police, while Chaokung instructed them not to go near the body. They arrived an hour later. There were only two men. They would not take the body out that night. After examining the cell, they took Chaokung’s statement while the others waited.

They don’t even want to hear what we have to say,” snapped Willem.

This is a great tragedy,” said Margot.

It should not have happened,” said Adeline.

It’s his fault. That bastard.”

Willem!” cried Maurice.

There’s no need for that,” said Jacintha.

I won’t let this continue. He’s crossed the line.”

We are all upset,” said Margot. “But what can we do?”

The thing to do is approach this calmly, with meditation and prayer,” said Jacintha.

Oh mind your own business,” said Adeline. “You silly girl.”

The police are leaving,” said Maurice.

We will go on hunger strike,” said Jiahao. “Out of memory of Hertha. In opposition to ill treatment.”

That would be drastic,” said Maurice.

But it would mean something,” said Adeline.

Agreed. If we are united he will seriously reconsider how things are done,” said Willem.

No. We must be focussed on a return to normalcy: to study; focussed; away from negativity,” said Margot.

Willem, our vows forbid us from speaking out against the Abbot,” said Maurice.

Something was ripped from its moorings in the black skies then. Thunder. Crushed space and time. Heavier raindrops pushed their heads. Chaokung was walking up the hill toward them.

Surely you can see his behaviour is the cause of all this?” said Willem.

Margot threw his words back at him. “I heard this all on the voyage from England. We are devoted to peace! A hunger strike, Adeline, really? At your age?

That would be very foolish in light of that we have all endured,” said Chaokung. “We shall eat. And get a good night’s sleep: and talk more about this tragedy in the morning.”

No. There are matters that need to be addressed now,” said Willem.

You are wrong. We need our strength. Now, the food has already been prepared. For all those who want it, follow me.”

Willem, Adeline and Jiahao did not follow. In the morning they did not touch their plates. Chaokung reminded everyone of the sin of wasting food. By midday the hunger-strikers were denied admission to the lunch hall. From then on, they were two separate camps exchanging looks of disappointment. Chaokung encouraged prayers for Hertha’s soul and reminded them, despite the tragedy, it was her decision and no-one was to blame. In the central quad the breakaway group ignored his instructions to observe a silence. They drew plans for a shrine to her memory, and read from scripture on health. They talked about continuing the fast there at Tiantai Shan. If the Abbot punished them, or refused to compromise, they would take it to the city.

While Jacintha and Maurice prayed, Chaokung rearranged the dining area so empty spaces would be less noticeable. Margot chopped onions, leeks and garlic, their scents wafting across the room. Meals were eaten from six oryoki bowls of different sizes. Chaokung stood for a moment with the zuhatsu, the largest of them, representing the Buddha.

Once they finished dinner, stuck food was scraped, hot water added, and the remains were drank. Leaving his bowl to be dried by Maurice, Chaokung went immediately out into the quad.

I waited for you at the table. You wanted to talk when it suited you and only then.” he said.

What that poor girl went through was a sin,” said Adeline. “Do not think I did not hear.”

You are running a house built on punishment. Yet you know the way of the Buddha is love. We must face what has happened,” said Willem.

I see. Now you will listen to me. This must end at once. You will not undermine our efforts. Return to the community. No more will be spoken about it. Or go, taking your shame with you. Go and never darken our door. The choice is yours. What will it be?”

Chapter 45

You can pay for chapters and over 75 pieces of exclusive content at http://patreon.com/andyluke

Sunday 6 May, 1934.
Duchess of York, North Atlantic Ocean.

Marie counted the hours since Ottawa, to the minute, to carry out his command. Walking to the cabin she was met by Steinke, his face white and full of shock. He pushed by her, avoided eye contact. They knew each other a year: he’d never lacked composure. She carried on to Room 427, knocked, then opened it. Adeline kneeled in prayer.

The Abbot says you can go now,” said Marie.

Good. I am better for the penance. I reaped the seeds I sowed.”

Oh, Adeline! Of course you did not!”

My poison tongue! I regret missing Ottawa, and the Prime Minister.”

We did not speak with him, only the Abbot did,” said Marie.

Is everything alright dear?” asked Adeline.

Did Mister Steinke come to see you today?”

Tao Chun?”

Suddenly Abbot Chaokung was upon them, out of breath and red faced. “MARIE!” he screamed.

I know, Abbot. I am sorry,” she said.

Be silent!”

The liner drifted into Gladstone Harbour. Passengers cluster at the stairwell. Mothers hush crying babies for the slow shuffle to land. They dock, and wait. A trickle of movement and then calls to back up. Four police officers climb the stairs.

The boat empties and they are led out: one constable in front, the other behind, two either side of the Abbot. Margot is weeping. Jiahao sees Hertha ready to faint and puts an arm out to steady her. Descending the gangplank, Escoffier spies a photographer, and turns her head away.

Chaokung pulls his arm from the officer’s grip. “You seem to be afraid of me, when it needs both of you to go with me!”

He is a Man of God!” said Willem. “This is completely inappropriate!”

They are led through a temporary walkway to a restricted access area, and their belongings searched. Then came the questioning and the long wait. Steinke was unusually silent, and with the Abbot separated the group descended into chaos.

Where have you taken him?” asked Margot.

Listen here. We are on a mission of peace,” said Henri.

The Abbot is a revered leader throughout the East. His teachings are known to millions,” said Willem.

Your Abbot is barred from Great Britain: standing order from 1919.”

He is not a spy!” said Willem. “Tell them, Steinke!”

Mister Steinke, what is the matter?” said Marie.

Are we under arrest?” asked Hertha.

Another officer entered then, a burly man with a cape of a moustache. “Thank you for your patience while we made enquiries, and I apologise for keeping you. You’re all free to disembark.”

What about the Abbot?” asked Jiahao.

Mr. Lincoln is being held in custody while the Home Office reviews the case. Constable, would you take these people through?”

They are led out onto Liverpool’s docklands, scrawks of gulls over the LMS train on the bridge. Ahead, policemen put Chaokung in a van. Margot breaks free of the others, and Hertha right after. The van circles round. Henri gives chase. Margot leaps onto the bonnet and Hertha dives for the door. The van swerves. Margot rolls onto the ground and Hertha holds on until it leaves her behind. She rolls in a ball of tears on the concrete.

Steinke and Escoffier were to find lodgings, but first paid for the others to go by train three miles through Bootle to Walton. The gatehouse was battered stone with turrets and the windows had angled shafts. Built in the 1850s, Walton was one of England’s largest prisons and the panopticon design let a few wardens watch many inmates. Chaokung is devoid of expression when they arrive. He is all business, laying down chores for each of them. Forbidden to give interviews, they would be his intermediaries: Adeline, in charge of taking his statements to the press; Henri: given the names of friends and a lawyer to contact.

We will stay here all week if need be,” said Hertha.

We are willing to go on hunger strike until they let you travel to London,” said Margot.

No you will not. The British press are not trustworthy. I do not want them to say you are being mistreated in any way.”

I will do nothing but that my master commands,” said Hertha.

Please forgive me,” said Margot. “Tao To suggested the idea, and I mistook it for your will.”

No, Tao Lo. It was posed only an example of what the Bodhisattva might ask. Instruction comes from Him alone.”

The hostel on Great George Square is an old sea-man’s mission. Named after the charitable philanthropist, David Lewis, it had recently expanded to a club including a sports hall, theatre and cinema. Inside the great Edwardian building they set down their luggage and meet around six. They eat their first meal of the day quietly. They find themselves in the common area after, no other guests.

This is the first time in months,” said Marie, “that I have relaxed. Henri, I am having doubts. About all of this.”

That is only natural,” he said.

We’ve worked sixteen hours, six days a week, for… a year?” she said.

These things are sent by God to challenge us,” said Adeline.

Henri we’ve barely spoken,” said Marie.

You’re right. And I have concerns too,” said Henri.

The Venerable One requires our support,” said Willem.

I will visit the Abbot every day,” said Hertha.

And I will not leave his side,” said Margot.

Love,” said Henri, “Let’s wait. Let’s give this another try.”

Maurice said, “Let’s take a train to Westminster and campaign for his release.”

That is a stupid idea,” said Adeline.

I agree,” said Escoffier.

It will do no good,” said Steinke. “In any case, we should not be beholden to him.”

How can you say that?” asked Jiahao.

I will not let his situation get in the way of our holy mission,” he replied.

Steinke goes to bed with no intention of visiting the Abbot. His blood is hot, his thoughts loud and confused. It is a long time since his mind had been this cluttered. Among it all he remembered Henri’s words to Marie: Give it another try. Perhaps this trip can be salvaged. With that seed planted, tears fall, and he dozes heavily.

Above the entrance of Walton Prison is a clock, with surrounding zig-zag mouldings. Martin Steinke stands over the visitor’s book. Among the guests the previous year are hangman Albert Pierrepoint, the nephew of Ignatius Lincoln’s executioner. The desk wardens speak to one another about the Home Office proposal. Steinke learns if Chao and the others take the evening sailing to Antwerp, the government will pay for their travel. ‘Trebitsch’ has flatly rejected the offer:, saying he will lecture four months in England, or return to the Far East.

Steinke awaits his turn, when Chao is done shouting at Hertha. He doesn’t need her around when work is to be done. Why can’t she be more like Tao Lo? Hertha avoids Steinke’s eyes, passes by with locked lips and folded arms.

When Steinke enters it is like a switch has been flicked: Chao’s mood is calm, perfectly untroubled. He forgives his assistant for not visiting. If the disciples have no business at the prison, they should to be confined to the hostel, and Steinke is asked to see that this is done. The routine of prayer and fasting should be maintained. Steinke says nothing during the meeting. His eyes narrow with anger. The Home Office proposal is not mentioned. A warden arrives at the door with news of another visitor. Chaokung instructs Steinke to go now. He has no more need of him today.

His youngest son, Clifford, has grown into a tall, handsome man, with colour in his cheeks. It is his twenty-third birthday, a frivolous earthly sentiment, therefore not remarked upon. Clifford talks about his new life in England. He’s seen Julius from time to time and written to John, who is still on Java trying to make a living. Chaokung nods, and tried again to open Clifford’s eyes to the life-changing opportunities of the Noble Eightfold Path. Several hours a day in prayer and meditation combined with abstinence from meat, fish and sugary foods would truly open his eyes to universal suffering and knowledge. He said his religion was supreme. He would go to Japan to rule as an Abbot.

The three shaved heads attract stares passing The Athenaeum club. A third of Liverpool are unemployed and the gutter journalists who get in their way are shown the way. Jiahao has never seen double-decker buses. Nor the dump wagons, bound for the Mersey and Queensway Tunnel. A tenement torn down the day before has grown into a housing block. There is darkness in the weight of the city’s stone. A plane roars overhead but cannot be seen and Jiahao tries to keep in step behind Willem. By the shops on curving Lord Street, Hertha has skipped ahead. She’s talking to a flapper outside the Adelphi, while Willem reads the listings. Jiahao cast around: the jewellers and bakery, the cobblers and coffee shops. Bikes move past, dapper men walk dogs. A couple meet with orange blossoms by Victoria. A paper seller hollers. Then Hertha, Willem by her arm, says they should all take in a film.

A huge crowd gathers at Gladstone Docks on Friday morning,: cameras on tripods; men with notebooks. The taxicab from Walton arrives and Hertha hugs him tightly. Chaokung meets with a donor from France and with his son, who knows he will probably never see his father again. The captain comes to see Chaokung and Steinke when they board. There is room in First Class, for no extra charge, to let them meditate without distraction. Chao thanks him, but their religion forbids them from living luxuriously. He walks to his disciples, in among the families shelving luggage and smokers talking about the horses. They set sail for Ottawa, but soon after the devotees are walking up and down the ship. Willem stays with the Abbot but he knows something is gravely wrong.

Where’s Steinke?” asked Henri.

I have not seen him since we boarded,” said Adeline.

We have looked everywhere,” said Jiahao.

The Abbot flattened down his robe. “This is of great sadness, that a brother has strayed. He has abandoned his duties, his siblings. We must pray for him.”

What has happened?” asked Willem.

His bags have gone,” said Margot.

Steinke did not look good all week,” said Escoffier.

That is enough,” he snapped. “Do not be seduced into following his wickedness. And do not speak unless spoken to.”